Kagen: Job creation should be top priority
By Tim Ryan, Shawano Leader Reporter
Creating jobs should be a priority over concerns about the deficit, U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wisconsin) said during a visit to Shawano Monday.
“We’re not going to pay off our debt until people have jobs,” he said. “Jobs trump debt.”
Kagen also noted the country’s debt started more than eight years ago, under President Bush, and could be traced to two wars, tax cuts for the wealthy and Medicare Part D – the cost of which have all been shunted to future generations, he said, because current taxpayers have not been asked to pay for them.
Kagen said the present Congress has been more financially responsible.
“The single greatest thing we did is re-institute Pay As You go,” he said, a rule requiring an equal amount of budget cuts or new revenue to cover any new spending.
Kagen attended an economic development roundtable Monday at the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce offices hosted by Shawano County Economic Progress, Inc.
SCEPI Executive Director Steve Sengstock said about 40 invitations were sent out to participate in the round table. Six attended, including representatives from the county and the Shawano business community.
Kagen said there has been some improvement in some sectors of the economy, but full recovery is still being held back by a lack of access to credit.
“We can grow our economy when small business has access to credit on Main Street,” Kagen said.
Kagen is pushing a Loans for Main Street amendment to the Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010, which would give more flexibility to community banks in providing credit to small businesses.
The amendment has made it through the House and the Senate has voted to bring it to the floor for debate, but it is opposed by the Obama White House, Kagen said, because of claims it lacks transparency.
Kagen Monday disagreed with that view and said the amendment would “allow small businesses to work through these tough times.”
According to information provided by Kagen’s office, more than two dozen small businesses in Shawano County have already benefited from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the tune of nearly $5 million.
According to the data, 19 small businesses received $4.5 million in loans in fiscal year 2010, while seven received $315,000 in loans in fiscal year 2009.
In Shawano County alone, businesses have gotten nearly $5 million in small businesses loans as a result of the recovery act.
Kagen at Monday’s roundtable also said the free market in the United States had run into a wall of “government-sponsored capitalism” in China. He said the U.S. needs to level the playing field by negotiating balanced trade agreements with China and prevent China from manipulating its currency.
Kagen also made a pitch for financial reform, saying there is more danger in the markets now than before the current recession began.
“There’s more systemic risk now than there was before the crash,” he said.
Kagen also visited Clintonville Monday afternoon to hear from city officials, including Mayor Judith Magee, City Administrator Lisa Kuss, Police Chief Terry Lorge, and Alderman Roger Metzger.
Among topics discussed was the government’s suit against the state of Arizona over its handling of illegal immigrants. Kagen said he does not agree with the lawsuit.
“We obey the law. If they want to come here to work, come legally,” he said.
Kagen also discussed the BP disaster in the gulf, saying the oil company should be held responsible for the spill.
Kagen said he had just come from Sturm Foods in Manawa where they are expanding. He said Wolf River Lumber in New London is also expanding.